Some emerging lessons learned in my mind:
1) It’s all about the three P’s-
Preventative measures—When you build a public work or safety structure, do it to the expectation that the structure will be there for catastrophic events like a 100-year storm. When the 25- or 50-year event comes along, the project will pay for itself by being more resistant to damage and decreasing repair and maintenance costs.
Preparation—don’t create plans that increase channels of authority. More channels create more bureaucracy. Bureaucracy, when it reaches a critical mass, protects itself from simple logic and blocks the free flow of information and resources.
Plans should be actively pruned to keep them simple and streamlined. That is how you keep a tree healthy and bearing fruit. Plans should have single points of contact with the authority, resources and logistical support to mold response to on-the-ground realities.
Pre-positioning—The machine should be set in motion and systems should be able to mobilize before an event, when possible, or during it at the latest. When human bodies are damaged, mobilizing after an event is already too late. Search and rescue teams are trained with a critical window of 72 hours. After that time, the survival probability of trapped and injured people falls away geometrically. Aid stations, supply drop off and rallying points should be decided before an event with alternatives in case those positions become unavailable.
2) Treat citizens as clients, not as flocks. Tax money is an account that set up to be cashed in during catastrophic events. Mississippi Power Company, the major electricity provider in southern Mississippi, prepositioned thousands of lineworkers to rebuild the electrical infrastructure almost immediately after it went down. Hundreds waited on the border of Georgia and other bordering states for the wind to die down so they could rush in. The reason Mississippi Power, a Southern Company subsidiary, did this was to get customers in a position to pay for power as quickly as possible. Shareholders would have it no other way. Profit incentives in this case worked better than the National Guard.
Winners and losers so far [Like SI’s Monday morning quarterback, in which Josh was quoted this morning. (Screw the Giants, go ‘Phins). Sorry, little digression]:
1) Mississippi Power for what was mentioned above and also for pre-positioning
2) U.S. Coast Guard for being on the spot. USCG’s leadership gave every crew operational flexibility to do what they needed to save lives. Respect to Vice Admiral Thad Allen.
3) Firefighters and cops for fighting the good fight when many of their own lives were destroyed.
4) Seabee naval construction battalion for sticking their heads up when the winds died down, squaring their asses away and getting onto the streets to join the fight. It was good to see Seabee heavy equipment on the street the day after the storm.
5) Citizen’s who quietly assumed the role of gods like Capt. John Ludwig, a Seatow boat captain and pilot who braved 60+ knot winds and rising surge on his little Zodiac to pull eight live and five dead from the jaws of Katrina.
“Some of the dead, they’re hands were bleeding from holding onto the roof, and what looked like the father had his arm wrapped around one of the young ones,” he remembered. “It looked like the roof collapsed on them.”
And Michael Claudel and Bobby McAlister, of Hancock County, who pulled 14 people, one a pregnant woman, two dogs and two cockatiels from house to house and room to room during the storm. They fought rising water and deadly wind to ensure everyone survived, finally breaking through a roof to drag the others through the second story window of an adjoining house.
1) FEMA for seemingly not doing any of the three P’s though that is your primary mission. Besides that, I’m not going to keep beating that dead horse. (Sorry about the clichés, Bearak)
2) Keesler Air Force Base for hiding behind your gates when your community was hurting so bad. For doing PT in the yard across the street from a shelter/ school full of poor people being evacuated for a dysentery outbreak-- and not lifting a God-damned finger. Seabees are as hardcore as you are soft.
3) I’m too pissed to continue on with the losers. I wish I could say that you know who you are, like the tv and sneaker looters, but you probably don’t.